More and more small churches are unable to provide their pastor with a full time salary.  This has meant that many ministers are entering the secular work place in greater numbers than ever.  Is this a bad thing?  Or can it actually be good for the church?

  First of all let me point out that the goal of a  small church being able to have a full time pastor is actually a fairly recent phenomena.  When I was a kid in the sixties, many churches could not afford to pay a pastor enough for the church to be his only means of support.  It was not at all unusual for a man to own a farm and pastor a church.  Others worked in town.  And let us not forget the day when one man would pastor several small churches simultaneously—preaching at a different church each week as they could afford.

  But these churches did have as their goal to become “full time.”  Parsonages were built to help get the preacher’s expenses down and money was raised to get to that desired place of full time.  Many of them made it, but some just barely did so, expecting their pastor to have no outside income but only providing enough to scrape by.

  So now we are faced with congregations unable to fully compensate a man enough to keep him on full time.  Pastors are forced to take another job in order to pay their bills.  Is this a step backward?  Possibly.  But consider some of the following benefits.

  1. Working outside the church provides the pastor with contacts in the community he would never have otherwise.  You meet people that would never darken the doors of your church.  You have the opportunity to witness to them, pray for them, say an encouraging word to them.  Even though many of these people will never be interested in your congregation you will be ministering—and isn’t that ultimately the goal?

  2. It forces your lay leaders to take more responsibility.  If you work at a regular job, you can’t take off work for many of the smaller problems that come into your member’s lives.  Minor surgeries are a good example.  Most employers will not let you off every time something like this comes along.  That means the laity will have to step it up.  This is good for them and in the end good for the church.  Your desire should be for your people to grow and there’s no better way for this than to see them go to work ministering to their own.

  3.  It creates mutual respect between you and the people in your church.  Many pastors don’t really understand how hard it is for their people out in the work place.  Getting a secular job themselves helps them to see the struggles and difficulties of the working man.  And the same is true the other direction.  Many laymen don’t appreciate the hard work done by their pastor.  But when he gets a job just like them they tend to view things in a new light.  Sure they should have respected the work before, but if they have their eyes opened this way, is that really so bad?

  4.  It creates a certain amount of financial security for the pastor apart from the church.  This helps keep the pastor free to be the man of God—to speak what the Spirit leads without having to worry about how he will pay the bills if he make the people mad.  Now let’s be honest—a real man of God should be this way anyhow.  But the fact is that sometimes pastors have held back because they knew they might be in a financial bind if they upset the wrong people.

  5.  Working a secular job may help a minister stay in a community longer.  How many pastors have you known that jumped around from church to church.  Anytime a problem arose, they were off to the next town.  Having a job in the community tends to help the pastor put down roots, to feel like this is home, to not be so quick to leave at the first sign of trouble.  True, it can work the other way too, causing a man to stay longer than he ought, but overall our small churches have had a bigger problem with pastors leaving too soon, not staying too long.

  Are there weaknesses to a church having a pastor go bivocational?  Of course.  He will not be able to do all he once did.  Cherished activities have to be discarded because there just aren’t enough hours in the day.  People who are used to having their pastor around for every function of their lives have to learn that it is God who promised to always be with them not a man.

  But overall, the benefits can be very good for both the pastor and the church.  Should churches not seek to grow to “full time” status?  Of course not!  But at the same time people should not feel like it is the end of the world if the pastor has to be involved in bivocational ministry.